Sunday, July 2, 2017

Lord of timeLords: on Peter Capaldi

So finally I get to write about Doctor Who. Hurrah!

And because this is a very important thing to talk about, let's not beat about the bush, and get straight to the point (to borrow the cliche)

To whit: Peter Capaldi is leaving. Long live Capaldi!  Long live 12! (or is he 13?).  Capaldi Rocks. Capaldi rules. I love Capaldi and want to have his babies. Capaldi is the best thing to happen to the new series since the new series. Which alone guaranteed he would never last long. Just as Steve's Law dictates that any song he enjoys will always be switched off, any aspect of New Who he approves of will be rejected by the masses and tossed into the rubbish bin. And, God Forbid, if he actually Enjoys something, embraces it whole heartedly with child-like abandon not seen since childhood, then it will most definitely be widely despised. So, Peter Capaldi, and the first unobnoxious companion we've had in forever, Pearl Mackie's wonderful Bill, are both leaving.

Grumble grumble grumble, harrumph.

I knew I'd love 12 since his very first appearance. He didn't even have any lines - just a close up on his eyes at the end of the Fiftieth Anniversary special as a bit of a harbinger of things to come (or, "teaser" if you'd rather stick with industry terms). A rather brilliant little piece of temporal play if you ask me.  The eyes said it all; power, dignity, mystery. I could tell right away, this new Doctor would mean business.

To be sure, he got of to a rough start. His debut was just awful. He came across as rude, unintelligible, and despite the very worst Moffat excesses, the episode itself was a frightful bore. The rest of the season was a mess, they tried to find the right tone and strike the right balance, (anchored down the whole time by the wretched Mr. Pink story arch), but when he finally found his feet. . .

For the first time since the reboot began, I finally felt this was my show again. I was never sold on the cool Doctor, the suave and cute Doctor. The ladies man, party animal, inventor of the banana daiquiri - the hip and "with it" Doctor was never someone I could relate to. Even his choice of companions were cool kids. The Doctor I knew was the misfit's misfit, the eternal oddball and outsider.  Finally, we had a Doctor who fit the Bill (ha!). An aged professor of physics, a teacher, an actual scientist. Deeply caring but largely unsentimental, world-weary but never self-pitying, old and wise. These were adjectives I could never apply to Tenant or Smith. Maybe Eccleston if he'd stuck around - but he didn't. It wasn't until Capaldi really took off that I realized I much I missed these aspects of the Doctor's character. I didn't want a Doctor the cool kids would like, but a Doctor who was too busy to care what the cool-kids thought. I missed the unabashed intellectual who didn't give a damn about fashion.

Capaldi was all these things. The fact that they made him a physics professor was no accident: Capaldi didn't just take his companions out into the universe to show them a great time - he was trying to teach them something. To get them to think. If I've been alienated from the new series so much of the time it's because too often it just doesn't think. Sure, it could feel up a storm, but it so rarely thought about things, and didn't demand it of either its characters or its audience. Capaldi was a thinker. It was a joy to see him in action. A joy cut off, all too soon.

Who knows who they'll replace him with. Probably a woman - there's been every indication of it. Give the person a chance, has always been my motto. But haven't finally gotten used to this one, and fallen in love with him, it's saddening to have to give it up so early and start the disorienting process of a new Doctor all over again.

Loosing a Doctor is always a bittersweet experience - a forced goodbye, but a promising new hello as well. I suppose, like many things in life, I shouldn't mourn that he's leaving but rejoice that he was here, even for a short time. Fact is, I haven't been this broken up about a Doctor's departure since Logopolis. Maybe I should be grateful that I can still feel that way, that Doctor Who can still do that to me, and that they finally found someone who could make that happen.

Capaldi's leaving. Long live Capaldi.  


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